J&J's Market and Café is a unique shop in the heart of midtown Nashville. It kind of lives under the radar. To the untrained eye it may look like a quaint, mid-century style convenience store, but look a little closer and you'll find it's actually so much more. Like Narnia. It's the Narnia of coffee shops.
Until recently, we were those untrained eyes. But our trip to J&J's changed everything. You walk into the store part at the front of the shop, so don't be alarmed if you have no idea where you are or what to do.
Just keep walking. It will all become clear. Or at least you'll know where to order your coffee. We can't promise clarity.
Because you may still be trying to figure out where this coffee shop is, we present you with the sign:
You may recognize it from the movie, Blue Like Jazz, where they pretended Nashville was Portland. Or you may recognize it from 21st Avenue.
The shop opens to reveal a large room with one long brick wall covered in quirky art (including one of a guy who looked dead and made us uncomfortable, but we're just going to look past that and move on to the giant iPhones).
The rest of the shop feels kind of like a library. Or a secret club house. Or a speakeasy. It's a little cluttered and everything feels like it may have been transplanted from another century. It smells kind of like Europe. We suspect they close off the lounge area from the store section after hours and have secret after-midnight slam poetry performances on the tiny stage we noticed in the corner, and people have to have like a secret knock or password in order to get in. If that really does happen, and you know about it, we want in. We can keep a secret. Promise.
There is also a red stage curtain along the back wall which really sparked our curiosity. What is behind the curtain? Has anyone ever dared to look? Is that ACTUALLY the entrance to Narnia? We were too afraid to check it out. Mostly because of the stares we would have gotten if we walked across the entire room just to look behind the curtain and take a picture with our actual-sized iPhones.
The menus are on chalkboards in ornate frames above the counter, where they ring a bell when they call your drink number. This is particularly helpful if you have a complicated name they wouldn't have been able to pronounce anyway or if you can't hear very well over the f-bomb laced discussions of theology happening to your left over MacBooks and outdated laptops [is that a laptop?].
The crowd at J&J's is diverse. There were corporate business types, people who are clearly in some sort of Vandy grad program where they talk about the meaning of life a lot (and the meaning of words--the OED was mentioned. Elizabeth briefly considered auditing the class. #nerd), hipsters, people who like to wear large headphones in public, and a lot of MacBooks.
We learned very quickly our table was a bit wobbly, which can be precarious when you are drinking hot beverages and using expensive computing machines. We thought it might be due to the vintage-ness of the table, but it seemed to be more because of the vintage-ness of the floor.
E - I got the Keeker's Keffler. I have no idea what the name means, but the drink was Earl Grey tea with vanilla and milk. I think I'm starting to like Earl Grey tea. It goes against all my tea snob principles, but whatever.
Tea Taste Rating: 9. It was very sweet, but deliciously so.
L - I got my usual vanilla latte "for here." It was a little too sweet for my liking, but otherwise pretty good.
Latte Taste Rating: 6.5
Latte Art Grade: 0. Sorry, love y'all and everything but this doesn't count as latte art.
The service was super friendly at J & J's. The barista girl was delightful, asked how our days were going and was adorably honest about it being very slow today when we returned the question. Elizabeth almost confessed outright that she was about to write a blog post and could she please take a few pictures? but realized she would rather not be judged while judging.
Also, how adorable is it that they have a wall of baristas?
Level of Uncomfortableness Walking In: 7. That whole store thing is confusing, but once you get to the actual shop, no one seems to care at all that you've arrived. Or that you're doing...anything. You walk in, you take several pictures with your iPhone, you talk loudly about how the Bible relates to Florence and the Machine or about the OED, you take up the entire couch, no one looks up. We probably could have gone to see what was behind the secret curtain without anyone even noticing. Maybe next time.
Parking: 3. Parking was super minimal at J&J's. There were only 5 parking spots designated for the shop itself. We counted. But there is some metered parking on the street (in Nashville the meters stop at 6pm and on the weekends) and a lot behind the building, which you can park in if you're the dangerous type who likes to ignore "Noshville parking only" signs [legally, we have to say we advise against this. And, let's face it, we'd advise against it anyway because we don't necessarily fit the "dangerous type" description either].
Levelness of the floors: -2
Disheveled facial hair count: 4
Newsboy Hat Count: 2
Inspirational quality of bathroom graffiti: 10
Unnecessarily large headphones count: 2
Entertainment Value: 10. This is our new rating for how fascinating the people-watching and people-listening is. We won't get too specific in case someone we were listening to/watching reads this. ::cough Frothy cough:: But trust us when we say it was FASCINATING.
Have you ever been to J&J's? Do they hold secret slam-poetry nights? Do you know what's behind the curtain? We want to know what you know.